April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Distracted driving has become an epidemic. In 2012 an estimated 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes that involved a distracted driver. 10% of those drivers were under the age of 20. Distracted driving is not limited to texting alone. It can include talking on the phone, eating, grooming, reading GPS devices and adjusting the radio among other tasks. Just how serious is this epidemic? Serious enough for insurance agents, the National Safety Council and the U.S. Government to invest time and effort into public awareness campaigns that span television, radio and marketing campaigns. There have even been new words created for the many types of distracted driving that cause more and more accidents and deaths each year. Words like:
- Sneering – steering with your knee while you text
- Snackcident – eating while driving
- Sender Bender – collision caused by texting
- Gabcident – an accident caused by the distraction of a cell phone call
Next time you are a passenger on a road trip, instead of playing the license plate game or the color of the car game, count the number of people talking or texting while driving. You will be astounded at just how many eyes are NOT on the road. The problem is so serious that state driven efforts have multiplied greatly. Programs that use social networking sites to promote anti-distracted driving messages are being utilized nationwide. Jolting internet commercials have surfaced with very realistic fatal crash scenarios that make the old highway safety films we watched in driver’s education classes years ago look like a preschool movie. Even observational surveys have shown that more than 100,000 drivers are texting at any given moment, and more than 600,000 drivers are holding phones to their ears while driving.
Insurance carriers have invested in programs like Distractology 101 which is sponsored by Arbella. This particular program is a 45 minute crash course on distracted driving held in a 36-foot-long, neon-yellow trailer. The consoles have a 180-degree wraparound screens designed to teach young drivers the dangers of distracted driving in a safe environment that is as close to reality as possible. The fact is that texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. This is the equivalent of putting on a blindfold and driving 55 mph across the entire length of a entire football field!
Young drivers are more likely to be involved in an accident or fatal crash where distracted driving was that cause. Despite these statistics, it is the responsibility of all drivers to understand the dangers of distracted driving and make better decisions about responsible driving. Please don’t drive distracted. For more information about distracted driving or to find programs that may be available to you and your young driver you may visit any of the websites listed here.